Another year, another Regionals – and once again, attendance records blew through the roof. Over six thousand, five hundred people came out to battle for a Top 8 slot – one thousand, two hundred more people than last year. Yet the available slots for qualifying remains mostly static (though to be fair, it appears that they’ve added the Great Lakes region since last year). What this means is that it’s getting progressively harder and harder to qualify for Nationals through Regionals. Last year, 2.25% of those attending Regionals qualified; this year, it was 1.83%.
Yep; this is my yearly attempt to get Wizards to fix the Regionals system for qualifying people for Nationals. Last year’s article appeared to fall on deaf ears – but this year, we have StarCityGames’ awesome forums in which to Sound Off! I’m hoping anyone who feels that something needs to be done (or even if you want to defend the current system) will post and let yourself be heard!
(And to be fair, Wizards has done one hell of a job at responding to complaints that don’t directly affect their marketing plans – just in the past year, they’ve created the Vintage World Championships, changed the age discrimination on their Player Advisory Panel, cracked down on high-profile cheaters, and and brought back Rebecca Guay. They may not listen on this particular issue, but I really do have to take a moment to give them severe props for responding quickly and efficiently – The Ferrett)
To really illustrate the inherent unfairness of the current system, just drill down to the specific regions – you’ll see that, depending on where you live, you are much more (or less) likely to qualify. The odds are grim if you competed in the Ohio Valley Regionals; with 674 people brawling for eight slots, you had a measly 1.19% chance to qualify. But fortune smiles on you if you live in the Southwest, where attendance was 213 people, giving you a 3.76% shot at the top 8.
Your chances of qualifying go up 315% percent depending on where you live. Is this fair?
Basically, the system is set up to punish the regions that have a more active Magic community. I’m willing to bet that players who placed 9th – 16th in Ohio Valley are just as good (if not better) than many of those who Top 8’d in smaller regions. If Regionals is supposed to be a gateway for the better amateur players to participate in Nationals, it’s not doing its job very well.
So what’s the solution? I think it’s pretty clear that slots should be given out based on attendance. In last year’s article, I worked some funny logic to determine suggest that one Nationals invitation for every forty-seven people in attendance would be fair. The tourney officials figure out how far down the prizes go, and they base that on attendance; I don’t see why they couldn’t do the same math to figure out how far down to hand out qualifying slots. I got some individual emails from more math-minded folks who worked out different numbers, and I’ve decided that we should probably tie it somehow to the Swiss system. If you’ve got some ideas, please share them! Maybe this time Wizards will listen and respond.
Below is a matrix of the Eight-Slot regions, comparing the 2003 attendance to the 2002 attendance numbers for reference: